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The Wild Cow Chase

written by

Joe Wanda

posted on

August 15, 2021

Let me introduce you to Blacky! Here's the best way to describe her. Have you ever had a teenager, that always seemed to rebel against you? Never did what they were supposed to and seems to just create trouble/havoc? That is how I feel about Blacky.

The story began July 17th. It was a nice Saturday evening around 7pm, I was just finishing up with chores outside and getting ready to head inside for what I thought would be calm night with family. Then the call came in from our neighbor. "We got some cattle in our corn field. Are these yours?" I certainly wanted to think they weren't ours, but headed out to check. Yep, they were our cattle. First, I went back to the pasture that they belonged at. We keep a small group of 7 heifers over at our neighbors 6 acre pasture. Sure enough, gate was wide open! Evidently, looks like they busted one of the links on the chain that holds the gate closed. It's always something simple. Sigh.  

I proceeded to call Hannah and my parents for help to round up the cattle. At first everything went very smooth, we moved them all to our neighbors horse pasture adjacent to the corn field. However, Blacky refused. (Let me give you a quick background about Blacky, even before this event she would refuse me to come within 30 feet of her, before she would take off running away. When we purchased the group of cattle, we never noticed that she was spooky, but as soon we put them on the wide open range of pasture, a different story. She was already hard to handle when we would move them from paddock to paddock, quite a crazy cow. We even had to get my neighbor and his wife, just to help us move her to the next paddock one day.) Well we did what I thought was the right thing to do, move the rest of the herd and leave her. Cattle don't like being alone, they will usually follow the rest of the herd. Well she never did, she stayed where we found them while we rounded everyone else up. When we went back to move her, she became even more spooky with us and proceeded to bolt past Hannah, almost running her over, and jump over a horse fence into another neighbors pasture. I thought great. She's in the fenced pasture now! However, that didn't work either, as soon as we entered to move her in that pasture, she jumped the fence again to the other side and ran straight for the woods. By this time it was 8:45 and about dark. I walked to the woods where she entered, no way I was going to find her at this point. New plan, was leave our cattle inside our neighbor's pasture over night and maybe she will come back to want to be with the rest of the herd. Makes sense as they are herd animals. 

Sunday morning after chores, I headed out to check if she came back. No signs of her. We proceeded the rest the morning traveling though every deer trail in the area looking for signs of her. Absolutely nothing. Except saw lots of deer and I am sure every deer trail camera caught us haha. I continued the rest of the day driving around, asking the neighborhood to keep an eye out for her, but nobody had seen anything. Called the sheriff department in both Walworth and McHenry counties, and local animal control, if anyone had called in about spotting a cow. I pretty much lost hope for the day and figured I'm sure she will eventually head back home or someone will call. Kind of like a run away teenager, right? Haha.

It wasn't until Thursday, we got a call from a neighbor 2 miles northwest from our farm, they spotted a cow behind their horse pasture eating in a soybean field. It was about 8pm at this point. I called my parents, 2 of my neighbors. So we had a group of 7 people thinking we could round her up into their horse pasture. Nope, as soon as I saw her and she saw us (about 100 yards from us she was), she bolted into the woods. Again it was almost dark at this point and I called the chase off and realized we would never catch her tonight.

The neighbor never saw her again the following days and It wasn't until that Saturday, after I went on a long hiking trip through the woods to track her trail, before, I finally found her again munching on some soybeans in a different field. At this point, I just wanted to know where she was and didn't try to chase her or anything. We decided lets call around for someone with a tranquillizer gun, as this may be the only way to get her. She was too spooky for us to round up. I talked to the local animal control, police department, and the veterinarian. Which finally after a rabbit trail, someone gave me a number to someone that could help. Sure enough, this someone was a local cowboy who does professional rodeo shows. He recommended not tranquilizing because of how messy it can be, but assured me they could rope her with the help of his 2 dogs.

Monday morning, the cowboys, dogs, and us went out on the quest to catch the crazy cow! At least that was the plan. After 1.5 hours of searching for her. She finally was spotted, but it all went down hill from there. The dogs and cowboys couldn't catch her, she bolted past them and jumped another nearby fence and onto Gasch road. The cowboys of course chased after her, but after a half of mile chasing down the road, she ran past the Stateline into Wisconsin and into another neck of woods where they lost her. Failed. I then called the Walworth county sheriff department if anyone reported a cow on the run. Yep, She was spotted another 2 miles more northwest from where we were, heading toward the major hwy 14. We drove up there, but of course no signs of her at this point. So we talked and shared with the area neighborhood letting people know there was a cow on the loose. (I sure got to know the neighborhood the last few weeks, Haha)

Finally, someone called me Thursday evening about 8pm. They spotted her hanging out by the road. We headed out there to find her. We now had a starting point to search. The next day, was spent walking the area to find out where she was living. Yep, there she was and calling this area home with plenty of water, shade and food to munch on, but the area was surrounded by corn fields, not ideal for chasing a cow.

When I called the cowboy again, he seemed quite down about last time and didn't seem to thrilled. Had some nasty words that he called her. Haha. I was worried, that he gave up. There was an old fenced in barnyard nearby the area. So we decided lets haul over 2 of our cows into that barnyard and see if that would draw her up to want to be by them. So we proceeded to do that. At this point we are 14 days into this chase. That whole week, I would go over there and moo like a cow, put out nice sweet smelling hay to try to draw her up to them. But no luck. I even got a few more calls from folks telling me they saw her. She would cross the road many nights to go eat out in the bean field, which was giving me anxiety, worried someone would hit her with their car. I really wanted to give up chasing this cow and leave her at this point, but then other farmer friends would tell me horror stories of loose cattle getting hit by cars and how that will be much worse and a liability for me. I couldn't afford taking the risk of having to pay for a totaled car or even worse, another human beings safety!

Once again, I called the cowboy again in hopes he had some ideas. He agreed to try again. This time though, he brought 4 dogs to help chase her down.

Early Friday morning about 5:30 am began another wild chase of the cow. We knew she was living along this creek that ran in between 2 corn fields. I went in to flush her out from the west side of the creek knowing she was last spotted on that end. The cowboys started on the east side going west into the wind with their dogs. Not long after, I starting to walk through the thick grass, some of it as tall as me, I heard this rustle. There she was and running towards me on the opposite side of the creek that I was. I ran as fast as I could to cross the creek and cut her off, but after falling into the creek, It didn't work. She got by me and was heading west. I called the cowboys and said I think we lost her. Further to the west the creek ran into a wooded area and I was quite disappointed again. The cowboys then finally arrived where I was. We proceeded to look for the cow tracks and where she went. However this time, she didn't continue west, but ended up turning south into the corn field. We quickly got the dogs on her trail in the corn field. Then all of a sudden, I hear from one of the cowboys. "COW!" There she was running through the corn field south. I then bolted down the driveway running towards the road to try and cut her off. By the time I got to the road, she was already there and about to cross the road into the bean field (I was holding my breath as she was so close to getting hit by a car when she ran across the road). After chasing her close to half a mile southwest in the bean field, the dogs and cowboys finally caught up to her. I couldn't as I was on foot and dying gasping for air at this point. So I missed the big catch. By the time I got there, they had her roped up and finally controlled! :)

Wish I got some pictures of this, but failed to remember.

I am pretty sure the neighborhood that lived there got a kick out of waking up to their morning coffee, witnessing a mooing cow on the run with barking dogs, cowboys, and finally me running after them through their backyard. Haha.

We proceeded to pull her on the cattle trailer after roped up and then back to the home farm after 20 days of being on the loose (also cost me a half a day of putting a new tire on the truck as we accidently hit an old concrete curb while loading the cow on the trailer, sigh). Wow! Quite the adventure Blacky the cow had caused. I guess it made for a good story, but sure did cost money, time, and worse of all, agony! I got to say thanks to Hannah for putting up with the late nights and missed family meals, while searching for Blacky.

Thanks for the read and mean while, I am off replacing old gate chains and double checking my fences!


More from the blog

mRNA Use in Agriculture

Big Pharma’s mRNA vaccine arrives in Agriculture It is evident that our farm serves some of the most informed consumers. When I'm just busy farming… I receive text messages, dm's, and emails sharing concerns about new technology or recent food health concerns…. All well before I knew the issue existed! Last month, we were overwhelmed with inquiries concerned about the use of mRNA vaccines in our livestock.  Short answer:We don't use mRNA here on our farm....and don't foresee ever using this technology in the future....Period Recent reports in the last months shared mRNA vaccine technology is being developed and already being used in hog livestock agriculture.  Leaving many consumers concerned about their food source.  I set out to do more research on this topic and take an unbiased view, but quickly realized this could turn into a college thesis with how deep the topic could go. I'm not a doctor and won't claim to have it figured out, the science behind mRNA technology is a bit over my head.  For now, let's just stick to some basic facts that I found and I encourage everyone to spend the time researching it for yourself to make your own decision whether this technology is safe or not.   Ultimately, our view is to serve health conscious consumers and if our customers are skeptics, then we will avoid it at all costs, just as we have taken a stance against GMOs, glyphosate, antibiotics, and other questionable food technology.  THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL STANCE AGAINST SCIENCE. Believe me when it comes to new technology, I am all for improving our well being and making life better. I'd be Amish and not writing this email, if I didn't believe in new technology advancements. When did mRNA vaccines arrive? While vaccines have been around for decades, the mRNA is new to the game of agriculture and creating quite the stir of controversy.  It is stated that mRNA vaccines started being researched a decade ago and first used in 2015 on clinical trials with hogs.  However, it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that it became a hot topic, as it started to go viral on social media and many raised concerns.  Part of the popularity on social media was due to many state lawmakers raising their concerns.  I found an article explaining more of their concerns thanks to reporter, Kevin Killough Lawmakers in Arizona, Idaho, and Missouri have introduced legislation related to the use of mRNA vaccines in food. The Arizona bill only restricts labeling such food as organic. The Idaho bill amends state law to prohibit the sale of such foods unless conspicuously labeled that the presence of the vaccine is in the food. The Missouri bill requires a conspicuous "Gene Therapy Product" label. Missouri State Rep. Holly Jones, who sponsored the Missouri bill, said it doesn't ban the use of the vaccines, but informs consumers if it was used.  "The public deserves to understand what is in their food supply," Jones said.   She said that mRNA technology is being used without the right amount of studies on safety and efficacy, and she doesn't think the "gene therapy" label would be problematic. Jones said that we already have labels we put on products, such as "grass-fed beef" and "non-GMO."   "There needs to be something specific to gene therapy labeling, especially when it comes to our food supply," Jones said. "We have to be specific enough that people understand what they're putting in their body. I believe consumers deserve to have that information."   Jones said that her bill would support farmers who would become vulnerable to lawsuits without those labels.   "This is actually pro-business," Jones said.  (Source found here) What are mRNA vaccines? Vaccines are nothing new, in fact they have been around for a long time and the first one was developed in 1796. It is a substance used to stimulate immunity to a particular infectious disease or pathogen, typically prepared from an inactivated or weakened form of the causative agent or from its constituents or products. Vaccines in the past have fallen into 2 main categories.  1. MLV (modified live virus) or killed virus. Which worked by injecting a small amount of the virus into the body to create an immune response from the body and form memory cells to fight it in the future.  2.Toxoid vaccines use a toxin (harmful product) made by the germ that causes a disease. They create immunity to the parts of the germ that cause a disease instead of the germ itself. That means the immune response is targeted to the toxin instead of the whole germ. However, the mRNA vaccines are something new that I expect to take quick adoption in the vaccine world as the technology speeds up the development process and is claimed to be much less expensive to produce.  An mRNA vaccine is different because it uses a copy of a molecule called messenger RNA to produce the immune response. In theory, after the laboratory mRNA is injected into the body, it sends a code to the cells to produce a protein that mimics the virus. This protein then stimulates an immune response and creates antibodies against the virus.  Currently, I found that mRNA vaccine technology is only available for pigs, dogs, and cats. It is not licensed for beef or poultry at this time. (found here) Should we be concerned?   Many are concerned about this new technology and its long term effects.  1. Will it have negative side effects to the health of the animal long-term? The FDA/USDA assure that it is completely safe to use and won't have negative long term health effects on the animal's health. 2. Will we be ingesting this mRNA when consuming meat from mRNA vaccinated animals?  They also share that the mRNA will denature in the body after a few days. Most vaccines already have meat withdrawal periods of 30-60 days (animals can't be processed for consumption after withdrawal period) on their product labels, so I anticipate a similar withdrawal period for the mRNA also. Claims are also made that ingesting the mRNA would not survive the acid stomach environment and there's no need to be concerned about this either. However, supposedly they are working on creating an edible mRNA vaccine through plants (Link here). So maybe it has a longer life period than they claim?  This is where I think all of it gets over my head. Here's 2 scientists below that are on opposing sides that have both been scrutinized for being paid off. Click on the link below and listen to both and decide on your own. Dr. Malone claims mRNA needs more research  Dr. Folta claims mRNA is safeI do pray and hope that this technology is safe and the hype is for naught.  Does Wanda Farm Use mRNA vaccine? As I stated above, we have never used mRNA technology nor will ever in the foreseeable future.  Full transparency on all other vaccines.  I don’t have a stance against or for them. I think it depends on each farmer’s situation. Currently: All our chickens are not vaccinated from start to finish. All our hogs are not vaccinated from start to finish.  Almost all our beef cattle are not vaccinated.  I say almost because we work with several different cow/calf farmers that raise calves for us (all to our strict grass-fed only standards). “No vaccines” has never been a requirement for our farm partners. While the majority choose not to vaccinate, I do have one farmer that chooses to vaccinate for a respiratory bacteria to his calves at weaning (it’s the old technology of MLV, not the mRNA).  Also will note, I have not been required or do I know of any farmers that have been mandated to use this new vaccine technology.  I do believe this will be an independent decision for each farmer, but most likely will be accepted with open arms to the industry.  I think overall the farm industry is pretty receptive to new biotechnology.  Why do we choose not to vaccinate? There’s really 2 main reasons we choose not to vaccinate our livestock.   First, what type of farm do you think these vaccines are going to benefit the most? Obviously the industrial, factory farms need these vaccines.  The livestock at these factory farms are raised in enclosed buildings with poor ventilation, in their own feces, un-natural diets, and many times under stressful environments.  All weakening their immune system and creating susceptibility to disease.  Not to mention they are crowded in the buildings, so disease can quickly spread from animal to animal.  Not to blame these farms, they are under so much economic pressure to prevent livestock sickness, that vaccines will be a viable option for them. For our farm, we raise our livestock in a natural environment outside on pasture.  That said, we feel there’s not near the same disease pressure our livestock experience outside. They have better air quality, cleaner environment, more vitamin D, natural diet, and a less stressful atmosphere.  All this said, when they do get exposed to a pathogen, they have a stronger immune system to fight it off! We will also offer our cattle a free choice mineral and salt to help boost their immune system.  This is really the main reason I choose not to vaccinate our livestock.  The second reason follows my first.  What’s the economic benefit?  If our animals are healthy, why give money to big pharma for a vaccine that’s not necessary?  Not to mention the whole process and time of catching the animals to give shots is neither enjoyable for us or the animals.  Animal Husbandry all starts with prevention and that means giving our livestock a low stress and natural environment as nature intended.  Summary I am very thankful for all the technological advancements in science and medicine. They all have helped make our lives easier and better, however, not everything is black and white.  I encourage everyone of you as consumers to spend time researching this mRNA technology yourself and make you voice to legislation that you want them to regulate this in our food system.  You deserve to know how your food was produced.  Our farm will continue to be skeptics of new bio technologies and listen to our customers' concerns.  We seek to honor God’s creation and feed families safe, healthy, nutritious food. God Bless,  Farmer Joe 

Is Beef The Worst Food For The Climate?

Have you heard that beef is the worst food for the climate?Recently, I watched this YouTube video called “Why beef is the worst food for the climate” sharing how it is contributing to climate change.Feel free to watch this video for yourself, she almost convinced me that beef is the worst food for the climate until I put on my critical thinking cap. 😉This might surprise you, but I actually agree with her title almost, just would add one more word to it. I share shortly.Let me quickly unpack what the video shares in a nutshell.The video gives a visual bar chart of how common foods in everyday consumption contribute to climate change. First, the lady breaks down each food’s CO2 emissions from the processing, transportation, packaging, and selling of these foods. Second, she shares the CO2 emissions from growing and processing food for each common food. Next, she points out the biggest contributor of emissions in certain foods is the farming process and land use change.The farming process in the case of ruminant animals (cows, sheep, goats) she points out have a large impact on the emissions, because they emit methane from the rumen due to enteric fermentation (the process of microbes breaking down the grass fiber). Methane holds more heat and therefore global warming potential is 21x higher than CO2.Lastly, she points out that land use change is highly impacted in cattle farming, due to cattle ranches deforesting land. In her conclusion, to decrease emissions and prevent climate change, we should stop eating beef because beef is the largest contributor climate change compared to all other common foods we consume.Based off her research and bar chart, it sounds like the right conclusion.As I shared above, I agree with that statement but would add one word to the statement. “Why FACTORY beef is the worst food for the climate”We can criticize cattle all we want for contributing to climate change, but maybe we are to blame how we raise cattle, not the cow?Let me first explain factory farming beef today.Most cattle are raised on what is known as a cow calf operation. They usually are on pasture, however, most of these farmers do not understand responsible grazing. The pastures usually end up being overgrazed on these farms and farmers spend a lot of time, energy, and fossil fuels to making hay or purchasing it to feed to their cows due to lack of pasture. I’ll explain why the over grazed pastures are a problem in a little bit and how deforestation of land to overgrazed pasture does have a negative effect to green house emissions.Then once the calves are weaned from their mother, they will get shipped out to a feedlot and grain becomes their diet until slaughter. Here’s the issue with the feedlot model. Each year, the farmer and his tractors expend fuel, time, energy to till the fields and plant the crop. Then again, the tractor goes out to spray and fertilize the crops a few times during the summer. Finally, then the combine harvests the crops in the fall and trucks the feed to a storage sight. Wait, it doesn’t stop there, then the corn/grain usually needs to be dried down by a giant dryer (burns a lot of fuel to dry) to keep good in storage. Then when the farm needs corn to feed the cattle, the grain it trucked to the farm. Then it is ground and loaded into the feed truck. The feed truck deliveries the grain to the cattle. Then the cattle hang out eating the grain on these concrete or dirt lots (no pasture), pooping and farting. But now the farm needs to do something about all the manure that building up in this feedlot. They now need to remove all the manure and spread it out on the fields with machinery. Finally, the cattle are fat and sent to the processor for beef. Meanwhile the farmer was lucky to make a profit after all that work.Now this sounds like quite the process to raise and feed the cattle, I know, because I worked on a farm like this. It is a lot of work. However, how much fossil fuels were burned with all the equipment…. tractors, trucks, drying, grinding, fertilizer, chemicals? How much time and energy were spent by the farmers for this process? A huge one is how much carbon is released into the atmosphere every time the field gets tilled. Unfortunately, many farmers are becoming addicted to tractors, and never stopped to think, a cow has 4 legs and a mouth? What if I moved the cows to their feed and let them harvest the feed themselves? Meanwhile they can spread their manure out on the field as they are eating.Also, I just want to clarify in case you didn’t know, but most pastures are perennials, if they are managed correctly, reseeding the pastures isn’t necessary. So once it’s established, we don’t need to worry about doing all that I explained above year after year with the tractors. Corn is also a grass, but it’s an annual and requires all that I explained above to grow year after year.Now can you see how having the cattle out grazing can eliminate a lot of fossil fuels, carbon releases, and arguably a lot of time and energy from the farmer?Right! What if we managed the cattle differently and how would that improve their so-called contribution to global warming?What I explained above is only a portion of this issue. She said the cow’s farts and belching are the biggest problem because they are ruminants. How does having them on pasture solve that problem?Let’s address this problem, because I hinted in the beginning with how most cow/calf farmers haven’t managed their pastures well and also contribute with their farming methods.Cattle are a key part to the ecosystem and as herbivores they have a symbiosis relationship with grasses. As grass lands grow, the grass has a very vital time for grazing. When it isn't grazed, it goes into a dormant stage where it is old and strawy, it's effectiveness in photosynthesis (the process of capturing sunlight and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) decreases. Photosynthesis is a key part of this system, as it breaks down the CO2 in our atmosphere, it puts the carbon molecule into the soil, which we call “carbon sequestration.” If the cattle continually over graze the grass, they stunt the grass and likewise won’t be affective in photosynthesis just as the over mature grass. Ideally, we want the grasses to be at a mature stage for grazing, not too short, nor too old, because this is when we maximize photosynthesis in the grasslands (also this is when the grass is best nutritionally for the cattle). Manage the cattle to graze the grass lands at the right time, with rest periods, and they are contributing to more carbon sequestration than many forest. This is the power of having livestock managed on the land vs on a concrete lot and what we are trying to achieve as regenerative farmers. Some of my mentors that I follow, they call themselves the “carbon cowboys” for this very reason. They are farmers teaching how crucial it is to responsibly manage our pastures and animals.Here's a quick little chart of a farm called White Oaks Pastures. They have been practicing holistic regenerative farming practices for 25 years now and have seen dramatic results. A study performed on their farm showed that they in fact have a -3.5-carbon footprint on the environment based on their farming model. Check out the chart.As you can see from the chart, this management practice doesn't stop the cow's methane belches and gas, but the holistic grazing puts so much carbon into the soil is more than makes up for the problem.Now that you can see the benefits regenerative farming is having, you can see how eating beef from a responsible grass-based farmer is crucial for protecting our climate. If you got the time, I encourage you to watch this Ted Talk.This is a reason, why when I go out to eat, I usually just don’t eat beef, unless I know it was responsibly raised by a regenerative grass-based farmer. My food dollars vote for my future world I want. ( and some say I'm a food slob haha)Keep eating local, grass-fed, and know your farmer’s philosophy and you will be helping to reduce the carbon food print. 😊Blessings,Farmer JoeP.S. On a side note they also compared their farm's beef to the “impossible burger," we’ll have to discuss this one in the future as it’s super interesting!